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Flying Somewhere New Can Reinvigorate You

The mountains of Japan are simply stunning.

It is hard to admit that sometimes I get a little bored flying, but I do.  For the first few years I was on the C-130, most of my flying was at about 300 feet above the ground out in the open terrain of Arkansas.  While the skyline was not particularly magnificent, and the terrain was not exactly rugged, it is an incredible rush to move that fast, that low, in a plane that big.

Coming to Japan has been an incredible experience with all of the places I have gotten to visit and the incredible people who I have gotten to meet from so many different countries.  With that being said, the flying in the local area can often be a little less than spectacular.

As you may know, Tokyo is the most densely populated city in the world so it can be challenging to find a piece of land that isn’t covered with people.  For that reason we are forced to fly more than three times higher than I was accustomed to before coming here.

You have to get a good steep bank angle in to really have fun, and fly safe, in the mountains.

However, the reason that Tokyo, and most of Japan for that matter, is so densely populated is because about 73% of the country is mountainous and uninhabitable.  What that means for flying, is that there is some incredible terrain out there to be explored.  The obvious question then is why don’t we spend all of our time flying in those areas?  The short answer is weather.  Wind, turbulence, and cloud cover all keep us out of those areas a lot of the time.  (To read more about the challenges and dangers of mountain flying check out my post on the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School.)

As luck would have it last week, I was scheduled to fly on a pilot’s last flight here in Japan and he wanted to go and rage through the mountains one last time.  It even looked like the weather was going to cooperate for us. I had never been to this area before, but in his 6+ years here our pilot had flown it numerous times.  It is worth mentioning that if you are not familiar with mountain flying you should really take a course or at least go with someone who is before attempting it.

The aforementioned weather that cut into the route but still didn’t stop us from some amazing fun.

My biggest regret was that I didn’t bring my GoPro because the scenery was simply stunning.  The weather did force us to skip a big chunk of the route, but overall it was just a wonderful experience.  As you can see from the few pictures I took, the mountains were the most beautiful shade of green and it was just all around beautiful.

While I could go on and on about how stunning it was, and how much fun it always is to rage through the mountains, that is not what I would like to focus on today.

It is not uncommon when you fly for a living to get into a rhythm and fly the same stuff over and over.  That may be flying the same routes repeatedly as an airline pilot, or flying the same maneuvers as a flight instructor, but it is easy to get into a rut.  As easy as it is to get into that rut I would submit that it is just as easy to get back out of it, assuming you want to.

The ground breaking solution to getting out of this rut is to do something different.  Maybe that is getting back into a small general aviation plane and go and get a $100 hamburger for the first time in decades.  Maybe you could go and get your float plane rating (I have often heard this referred to as the most fun rating a pilot can get).  Or maybe you could take an aerobatics course and pull some G’s and improve your understanding of how an aircraft handles in all different attitudes.

Full yoke deflection means you are about to feel the pull through a turn.

It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it breaks up the monotony for you.  For me it was getting into a new area of Japan that I had never seen before.  We raged through some amazing scenery and just had an amazing time.  By the end of the flight, which I am a little ashamed to admit was only about three hours, I was pretty exhausted because I hadn’t flown like that in a long time and it takes it out of you physically.  In my defense I do stand the whole time, but it was an incredible feeling to be so tired after a flight again.

Flying is the most fun thing you can do in this world in my opinion.  It is one of the few ways we can overcome the laws of physics and put ourselves somewhere that the human body cannot go on its own; flying through the air.  If you have gotten bored with it, or thing it is just not fun anymore than you need to change it up and get out and do something new.  Life’s too short to not enjoy something so incredibly fun.

June 18, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Cope North 2016 Video

Once again I realize I am behind the power curve on this one since the 2017 version of Cope North was over a few months ago as well, but I had too much great footage to just let this one go.  Hopefully I can get some more videos done faster so that won’t be so dated.

The 2016 edition of Cope North was the largest version of the exercise to date with participants from no less than 9 different countries.  The exercise involves dozens of fighters from numerous countries, and multiple branches.  There are also AWACS, Tankers, and of course the best type of aircraft, C-130s.

We were joined in our airlift efforts by the South Korean Air Force as well as the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, who we work with on a regular basis.  As a group we executed numerous air drops, and a massive amount of airlift in a humanitarian aid simulation.  It is always a pleasure working with our international partners learning from each other and having a few laughs.

One of the most fun things we get to do at this exercise, other than flying around all of these gorgeous islands with incredibly blue water, is execute unimproved surface landings on the island of Tinian at the old North Field.  If that name sounds vaguely familiar that is because some pretty important history took place there.

North Field was the departure field for a couple of B-29s that you may have heard of, The Enola Gay and Bockscar.  I have mentioned before how much I love walking where history has happened, and in this case I actually got to fly there.  To utilize such a historic runway leaves me just a little bit speechless.  It is a lot of work for our crews to clear back the jungle each year so that we can utilize the runway for this exercise, but it is invaluable for all of the crews.

I will spare you any more of the details since it happened so long ago, and just leave you with the awesome footage I was able to gather below.  If you want to learn more about the exercise a simple Google search will take you to official Air Force articles.

I hope you enjoy and I would love to get your feedback.

June 13, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Another C-130 Leaves the Air Force: The End of an Era

I don’t like to write about sad things, because, surprise surprise, it makes me sad.  The challenging thing about this story is that it involves doing something that I totally love, flying.

If you pay much attention to US Air Force changes then you know that the C-130H is being replaced by the C-130J which does not utilize the services of a navigator, which also means I am having to find a new job, but that is a whole different story.  Fortunately, these old beautiful birds still have a life to live in the Reserves and National Guard.

I had the opportunity to go and drop one of these planes off at its new home in Ohio.  While a few pictures and nice memories really don’t do justice to a plane that has served for more than 43 years, that is all that I have to offer.

The sunset as we were leaving Japan was simply stunning. Poetic as well as this was the sunset mission for tail 1659.

Our original plan was to fly the southern route across the Pacific visiting beautiful tropical islands as a good-bye to this sweet old lady.  However, as these planes have done for much of their career, she had different ideas.  She decided she wasn’t quite ready to leave Japan so she broke for two days.  That meant that we had to take the northern route through Alaska which was equally as beautiful, just a lot more chilly.

Having been to Alaska last year I was not quite as excited as I was to visit Hawaii for the first time, but it was just as beautiful as I remembered.  What was unique about this leg was the distance we were able to cover and the altitude we were able to reach.

Sunrise as we started to cross the Aleutian chain on our way into Alaska was equally as stunning.

Typically for us, 6-8 hours is a pretty long mission and generally the limit of our fuel depending on how much cargo we are carrying.  We also are generally restricted to about 20,000 feet or so in altitude because we are so heavy.  But a fortunate shift in the winds, and the small payload we were carrying allowed us fly for a full ten hours and climb all the way to 27,000 feet.  I know that is nothing for a commercial airliner, or even our bigger Air Force brothers, but for a C-130H that was a pretty big deal.  We also were able to make the trip from Japan to Anchorage without stopping which is an even more amazing feat for our non aerial refuel capable plane.

The Canadian Rockies are incredible to behold and probably more remote than most anywhere else I have ever been.

After some much-needed sleep in Alaska, despite the sun not setting until after midnight, we headed off for Great Falls, MT for another stop.  I have never flown over the Canadian Rockies before so it was really fun to see just how stunning they really are.  There was still a large amount of snow up there which made it even more majestic.

I know it is a small thing, that only my older brother may appreciate, but it was fun to just relax and toss a frisbee around for a few minutes. Yes there is someone relaxing in that hammock, the only way to travel in the back of a C-130.

I was also able to fulfill a career-long dream of mine on this leg, playing frisbee in the back of the plane while flying.  Generally this is not possible because we are full of stuff and/or people, but since all we had was the crew and a bunch of spare parts there was plenty of room for activities.  Fighter guys can do lots of cool fun stuff, but they can’t walk around and relax in the back of their planes.  They also have to use a piddle pack, but that too would be a story for another day.

After crossing over Glacier National Park we descended down into the plains near Great Falls and enjoyed some of the beautiful scenery, in particular the Missouri River.  Due to scheduling concerns, we actually had a day off in Great Falls where we were able to go out and enjoy some fishing on the river before proceeding on.  The fishing sucked because the river was so high, but I will never turn down some time on the banks of a beautiful river surrounded by stunning mountains with a fishing rod in my hand.

A stop in Big Sky country seemed fitting as this is the place that many of our other tails will be traveling to. A nice little break before her last leg.

It was a little sad leaving Great Falls on the last leg of our mission knowing that this would be the last leg of an active duty career spanning more than four decades.  There are only a handful of people in our squadron that were even alive when this plane was built, and now her time was up.

As we pulled into parking in Ohio and shut her down for the last time it was a little sad to say goodbye to another one of these sweet girls.  She still has a good life to live in the Guard, but as the number of H models we have on the ramp here continues to dwindle it makes me sad to see the end of this era.  If I’m being honest a little of that is selfish because I am losing my position on active duty, but I really think it goes deeper than that.

We often talk about how the C-130H was really the last plane in the Air Force inventory that you really got to fly because all of the others are so technologically advanced that computers do a lot of the work.  There is also something comforting about all of the gauges and dials, that broke as often as not, but that were a credit to the craftsmanship of this beautiful plane.  How many machines that are this complex have been able to take a legit beating for 40+ years and still keep working?  Not many.

So as I say goodbye to old 1659, it is with a heavy heart, but with fond memories of the amazing things I have gotten to do on this amazing aircraft.

No rest for the weary. Before we could even get all of our stuff of the plane, her new owners had her all ready to be towed into a hangar to get cleaned up and ready to keep working.

June 7, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Will Airline Service Get Better or Worse in the Future?

With all of the shenanigans that have been happening with airlines recently I have spent a fair amount of time reading commentary from all different point of views.  The vast majority of whom have no real understanding of how the airline industry works other than getting on a plane and flying from point A to point B.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I am hardly an expert, especially when compared with a lot of other blogs out there like AirlineReporter or AirlineGuys, or AirlineGeeks, etc. but I like to think that I know at least a little more than the average Joe out there.

The specifics of the actual events have been beaten to death with practically no one changing how they feel about the issue because that is what we do in the modern world, we pick a side and stick to it refusing to even listen to what the other side has said.  So rather than continue that useless charade my mind has been drawn to topics that led to some of these events, or at least maybe influenced their occurrence, and will continue to impact the industry as a whole as we move into the future.

One of the biggest topics that I have been thinking about is the level of service that airlines currently provide, and whether that service will improve or deteriorate in the coming years.  The challenge with this topic is that there are so many factors involved it would be practically impossible to come up with an overarching answer for the entire industry.

For example, airlines in the US are significantly different from those that operate in Europe and Asia.  They simply face different challenges and opportunities by nature of the geography in which they operate along with political sensitivities, and the different wants and needs of the passengers whom they serve.

The interesting perspective that I have right now is that recently I have significantly more experience with Asian airlines rather than US-based airlines, while the majority of the commentary that I have read has been related to airlines in the states.  It has been really interesting to see how differently they operate even when it comes to serving a similar customer base in crossing the Pacific.

If you were to compare the services that airlines offer now to those offered 40 years ago, I don’t think anyone would think the service now, as a whole, is better than it was then.  However, 40 years in aviation is nearly half of the life of an industry that has developed exponentially over its lifetime.  What is interesting about that development is that while the technology in the industry continues to improve, the service as a whole has deteriorated.

So why is aviation different from so many other industries in that they continue to offer fewer services while their technology continues to improve?  Shouldn’t increased efficiency and steadily increasing traffic lead to better service and more options?

While there are numerous pieces of this puzzle that play important roles in the overall picture like increased security measures (yes I still hate TSA), I think there is one piece that has driven this decline in service more than anything else, at least in America.

Price sensitivity.

From my admittedly relatively limited experience, Americans are more price sensitive than any other region of the world I have visited when it comes to buying plane tickets.  This is not to say that Europeans and Asians don’t care how much they pay for a plane ticket, they simply don’t allow that to be almost the only factor in their decision-making process.

Maybe someone else can help me understand the actual reasoning behind it, but Asians and Europeans seem far more willing to pay a premium for added service, whereas Americans prefer to pay the absolute lowest price for a ticket, and then wonder why the service is not as good as it once was.

To be fair, there are more and more ULCCs popping up around Asia in particular, but even those airlines offer a more pleasant experience than the ones in the US.  Maybe that is just because they write me off as the stupid American that they don’t want to deal with, but in general it has been a much better experience here than in the US.

I don’t blame the airlines one bit either.  With the need to fly with such high load factors in order to remain profitable, the airlines are always looking for ways to fill empty seats, including overbooking.  The problem is, as you continue to charge less and less for a given seat, you have to find other ways to cut costs, or else that seat becomes a liability rather than a minuscule asset.

I was working on my Bachelor’s in Aviation Management in the years after 9/11 which led to many interesting discussions about how that day had affected the industry.  In that same vein, the industry has continued to adapt in the years since for a number of different reasons so what worked then may not work now.

One of the airlines we often discussed was Continental.  In the aftermath of 9/11 when many of the other airlines were slashing ticket prices, along with their services, Continental seemed to decide they could attract those customers willing to pay a little more to keep the services they were used to.  I am not talking about business travelers who are far less price sensitive, and still get all of the services in First Class, but rather those people who simply appreciated things like a hot meal.  Continental was the last airline I remember serving me a hot meal on a domestic flight for no additional charge.  It may have only been a pretty plain chicken sandwich, but it stuck with me and my perception of the airline sat above the rest.  This is an overly simplistic view of their decision-making process, but I often feel they over think many of these decisions.

Now, all of the airlines are really not that different from each other.  Sure you have outliers like Southwest not charging for checked bags, but by and large they all seem to offer the same stuff, and I don’t really see much of a change coming anytime soon.

The reason I say I don’t see much of a change coming is that there really aren’t that many more services that the airline can take away.  You already have to pay for almost everything other than your seat, and in many cases if you want a window, aisle, or even an exit row seat, you have to pay for that too.

While I personally don’t take issue with the airlines doing this, I would honestly prefer if they would just add that stuff back in and charge me an extra $20-30 for my ticket.  I am often just as price sensitive as the next guy, and the larger my family gets the more this holds true, but at the same time I appreciate a few services.  I can convince myself to pay a little extra for a few of those services when I see it as part of the ticket, but when I see it as an additional charge for some reason I almost never pull the trigger.

The perspective of passengers is an interesting dynamic of this whole discussion, because we all view it differently.  For that reason, there is no one size fits all answer for how an airline should offer its services, but only time will tell if we ever get to a point where we feel like the industry as a whole is improving their service offerings.

April 25, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

An Awesome Avgeek T-shirt to Support Adoption

Our family is about to grow by one.

I really hesitated on posting this as I am not someone who enjoys asking for money, but after seeing the willingness of the amazing avgeek community to contribute, I figured it was worth a shot.

As you can see from the above picture, it is a pretty awesome t-shirt that I am talking about, and it is in support of an even more awesome cause: my new son’s adoption.

If you would like to read the full story please head on over to our adoption blog, but if you just want the highlights, here you go.

My wife and I have talked about adoption since we got married almost ten years ago, but it was just never the right time, until we moved to Japan and met some friends in my new squadron that were adopting from China.  To make a long story short, after about eight months of paperwork and waiting, we were paired with our new son that we have named Ty Drechsel Lynn.

Our new son Ty Drechsel Lynn.

We are now within about two months of traveling to China and just trying to raise whatever funds we can to help make that happen.  I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of people I hardly even know,  and in some cases don’t know at all.

If you would like to buy one of these awesome T-shirts and help with some of our expenses then I would greatly appreciate it.  There are a lot of great causes out there so thanks in advance for your support.

February 7, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Year In Review: Operation Christmas Drop 2015

Yeah, I know it has been more than a year since I promised this video, but here it is finally.  While I am by no means a professional video maker, there is some pretty awesome footage in there.

Operation Christmas Drop 2015 was the 64th annual edition of this humanitarian operation, making it the longest running humanitarian aid mission in DOD history.  Over a seven-day period we dropped to 56 islands covering more than 2 million square miles of mostly water.  To give you some perspective, that is an area larger than the continental United States.

This was the first year that the US Air Force was joined by the Royal Australian Air Force and Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and it was a tremendous success.  All three nations gained valuable knowledge and experience from this amazing operation.

I have done some amazing things over the past year, but I honestly don’t know that I could ever have more fun flying than I did for this week.  Cruising out at altitude for hours and then descending into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and picking out an island that is less than a square mile in area is incredibly fulfilling.

As you level off over the islands you see the bluest blue waters surrounding stunningly green palm trees with small groups of people waving and excited to see you.  It is hard to imagine a more remote location and that makes the airdrops that much more challenging.

Normally we airdrop on surveyed drop zones with ground controllers that increase our situational awareness by giving us winds and ensuring the drop zone is secure.  In this case we have to estimate the winds ourselves, and make multiple passes to ensure that we drop in a safe location free of people and structures.

While this can be extremely challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding to see all of the countless hours of training we do pay off as we deliver Christmas to people who wouldn’t receive it in any other way.

It is a little weird to celebrate Christmas in the toasty region of Guam and the South Pacific, but I also can’t think of a much more rewarding and fulfilling way to enjoy the season.

While I am no professional video maker, I hope you enjoy the footage, and I would love to hear any comments you may have to share.

 

January 18, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

2016+ Year in Review

I know it is cliche, but I really can’t believe another year has gone by.  Even more unbelievable to me is how much I have actually done this year, and some of the incredible experiences that I have had.

With all of the time I have spent all over the Pacific I have neglected this writing, which I am just now realizing was a sort of therapy that I have also been missing out on.  Such is life though and all I can do is work at getting back into it.

So rather than try to cram everything into one post, I am going to work on getting out one a week or so which will hopefully give me some time to really internalize everything I have learned this year, while at the same time not overwhelming myself and then just giving up.

So here is a quick overview of some of the things I will be writing about over the next few months:

Operation Christmas Drop 2015–  I have mentioned this before, and a year later I am going to actually get to it.  I was on a crew for this operation which was an amazing opportunity to fly all over the islands of the Pacific bringing Christmas joy to people who live about as remotely as you possibly can in this world.

Cope North 2016-  This is a massive exercise that takes place in Guam every year involving 8-9 different countries in this instance.  Once again I was on a flying crew, which was one of the best crews I have ever flown with.  This was the first time I had ever trained with fighter aircraft which was a whole lot of fun.  As well as visiting some pretty historic sites.

Balikatan 2016-  Another large-scale exercise but in the Philippines.  For this exercise I went as a mission planning cell chief working at a location we had never fully manned before.  While I didn’t get to do any real exciting flying, it did really open my eyes to the time and effort that is required to pull off these vitally important exercises.

Red Flag Alaska 2016-  Surprise, surprise, another exercise, though most people who have interest in military aviation have likely heard of it, or at least the Nellis AFB version.  While I was back to flying for this exercise, it is structured differently than the other exercises so I also did a massive amount of mission planning.  It was some of the most incredible flying I have ever done, with a fun crew, and some amazing off duty time in the awe-inspiring Alaskan mountains.

Becoming an evaluator  Not exactly an exciting flying adventure, but something that has shaped the way I view being a flyer.  I have written numerous times about how much I love instructing, and evaluating has only deepened my love of instruction, but on a much deeper level.

Operation Christmas Drop 2016-  This year I went as the mission planning cell chief and there are few times I have worked so many hours and felt so completely fulfilled by what I have done.  To be very clear, there are a lot of people who did a lot of work to make this operation happen, and it was an honor to be a part of it.  It will be hard to beat the value of this experience in my life.

So there it is.  I am sure I forgot events that I will write about as well.  It seems so short listing them all like this, but I am excited to go back and relive all of these experiences again.  I know it will put a lot of smiles on my face, and I hope that you will find some enjoyment from reading about it.  Thank you for all of your support in the past, and I look forward to your comments in the future.

January 6, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A New Year, Some of the Same Thoughts

I’m not really sure where I am going with this post, but I find that sometimes just writing about the things that are on my mind can help me come up with solutions, or at least help me to feel more comfortable with my decisions.

I am at the point in my flying career where a change of some sort must happen and I have some mixed feelings about which direction that I want to go.  It doesn’t matter if you fly in the civilian wold or in the military, change is just a part of the industry, and as technology improves, sometimes we are forced into change whether we want it or not.

In my case The C-130H is finally being entirely replaced by the C-130J in the Active Duty Air Force.  I had previously thought my time in the Herk was going to be over a couple of years ago, but as luck would have it, I got almost another two years, and some of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life.  Unfortunately, the end is officially here, and I have to make some changes.

The Air Force is more than happy to retrain me into a new airframe, or more likely just another version of the C-130, but that would most likely mean a move to the Special Operations community, and that is just not the right place for me and my family situation.  The other options leave me in essentially the same position again in a few years as they phase out their navigators, and would ultimately lead to every aviators’ worst nightmare, flying a desk.  There is one opportunity that would keep me on the beloved Herk, and on active duty, but unfortunately bureaucracy has made that not an option.

That leads me to the path that I am likely to take at this point.  The National Guard and Air Force Reserves are still chock full of H-models, and every unit in the country, except maybe Texas, is hurting for experienced Navigators.  After much deliberation with my wife and some trusted advisers, I have come to essentially the same conclusion that Rob Burgon over at TallyOne did as he reached a similar transition point.

Moving to the National Guard allows me to keep flying the plane that I love while also being able to put my family, and our future, first.  If I am being honest though, I can’t help but wonder what opportunities I am leaving behind by making this switch.  There is obviously no way of knowing what the future down either path would bring, but it is in my nature to wonder what could happen.

As I write this, I find myself feeling more and more certain that making the switch is the right move, and that it will pay the greatest dividends in the long run.  I wish I had more to say in terms of certainty and knowing that the whole thing is going to work out as I would like, but then that would not be military life would it?

If I had anything to pass along to others who may be in some sort of similar situation I would say stick with your heart and don’t be afraid to pursue a path that is different from what you intended or that others expect of you.  Listen to those that have gone before and take into account as much information as you can, but at the end of the day you will find happiness doing what you love and are passionate about.

January 1, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

“A date which will live in infamy.”

These words evoke an incredible range of emotions for millions of people every year around this time.  Even for those of us who were not yet living, or even our parents for that matter, they strike an instant chord to something deep inside us.

When FDR said those words 75 years ago I seriously wonder if he would believe what I did today would have ever been possible.

I am currently in Guam participating in Operation Christmas Drop as the Mission Planning Chief for the exercise.  If you don’t know what this is look it up on YouTube because there are some amazing videos.  

In short, it is an operation to deliver supplies and Christmas presents to the people of Micronesia and the Marianas islands utilizing C-130s to airdrop these much needed supplies.  This is the 65th installment of the operation and it gets more awesome every year.

What made today special for me was the magnitude of what I was able to witness.  You see, 75 years after that infamous day, I was part of an operation where American and Japanese military members flew on each other’s aircraft to deliver goodwill and happiness to people across the islands of the Pacific.  

Two nations that fought bitterly so many years ago teamed up, along with our Australian brothers and sisters, to drop not bombs but food, gifts, and other vital supplies to people they will never meet in person.  In one day they delivered nearly 10,000 pounds of cargo in a joint operation that demonstrates the amazing relationship we have developed.

As I lay here about to go to sleep almost 75 years to the hour that Pearl Harbor was attacked, I almost cannot fathom the magnitude of what took place today, yesterday, and will again tomorrow.

In a world that can so often be viciously divided it was awe inspiring to see how much good former enemies can do when we unite together for the greater good.  May we all take a minute today to remember those that were lost, but also take a minute to find our own battles that we can bring to a peaceful resolution.

If the flag of the rising sun and the stars and stripes can literally fly together after all they endured three quarters of a century ago, then any quarrel can be settled and instead good deeds can be done.

December 7, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A Few Shots of Everyone’s Favorite C-130: Fat Albert

The Blue Angels are the highlight of pretty much every airshow they fly at.  They put on an exhilarating show that is almost impossible not to enjoy.

The part of the show that many people unfortunately overlook is one of my favorite parts.  Fat Albert is the workhorse of the show as the transport for the maintainers, as well as the only propeller driven aircraft in the show.  I had the opportunity to see Fat Albert back when they still utilized JATO bottles for some incredible takeoffs, and I have been hooked ever since.  In case you are wondering what a JATO takeoff is, check this out:

While living in Pensacola, FL, the home of the Blue Angels, I got to see Fat Albert quite often, but there is just something special about seeing him on the road.  I had that opportunity again last August while in Seattle during the SeaFair Air Show.

While most of the action took place out over the water, I actually think Fat Albert’s part of the show is better at the airport itself.  In this case that would be King County International Airport, better know as Boeing Field.  The outdoor static displays of the Museum of Flight is a unique and wonderful place to watch an airshow.  Though you will notice a few of those planes peeking into some of my pictures.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

A zoom climb takeoff like this is incredibly uncomfortable since you are flying at maybe 10-20 feet with the gear up as fast as you can.  Keep in mind, that this is not a little Cessna 172, but a 100,000+ pound cargo plane.  That makes for an incredibly exhilarating experience, and some pretty insane takeoff angles for such a large, propeller-driven plane.

While it can sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

While it can’t sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

If you have ever watched a “normal” C-130 takeoff, it is not very exciting, and it takes a long time to get up and away.  While this is nothing compared to the old JATO takeoffs, it is fun to take off at this steep of an angle.

C-130s don't necessarily translate to air show excitement.

C-130s don’t necessarily translate to air show excitement.

In terms of the air show itself, this picture really sums up most of what a C-130 can do in an air show.  It can be fun to see some big banking 60 degree turns and high-speed passes, but the real power and utility of the C-130 can’t really be shown at an airshow, with the exception of the takeoff we already talked about, and maybe even more nerve-wracking, intense landings.

The C-130 was designed to go into austere locations and provide support to forces that otherwise would not receive it.  I often explain to friends that all we need is an area free of trees and other tall objects and we could get in there.  While that may not be 100% accurate, it really isn’t too far off.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

One important aspect of this unique ability is approaching airfields at an incredibly steep angle.  We often refer to it as riding the elevator because you watch the altitude just spin off the altimeter.  I read an article from a reporter who got to take a ride on Fat Albert and she said that the most scary part was this steep descent into the runway.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

While it may make the untrained civilian uncomfortable, it is things like this that get all of us Herc crew members excited about what we do.  It feels amazing when the pilot rounds it out and you touch softly down after screaming towards good old terra firma.

What a beautiful sight.

What a beautiful sight.

Everyone is attracted to the fast and agile planes at an airshow, and for good reason, because they are exciting.  However, the older I get the more I appreciate the wonder of some of these unsung heroes at airshows.  There may be no greater unsung hero than Fat Albert, but I may be a little biased.

May 14, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.